What you see: White, hole-y stuff in your mango; it might seem like the pit is taking over the rest of the mango
What it is: Starchy mango tissue with air pockets
Eat or toss: Eat around! The texture of the white stuff won’t be nice, but the rest of the mango is edible. It may not, however, be as flavorful as you’d like.
Let’s take a few steps back.
When fruit ripens, it turns starch into sugar. In the case of mangos, unripe starchy fruit is hard and white-ish on the inside, much like what you you see in the unfortunate patch on this specimen.* At this point, the mango's insides are heavy on the starches and acids; the sugars and flavor that the fruit is famous for are only just beginning to show up.
At harvest, mangos are ideally mature and starting to ripen, but pickers can only make educated guesses when they pull them off the tree. Some immature fruit inevitably winds up in the harvest crates. Mangos ripen from the pit outward, so the innermost areas could be mature and ripening, while the flesh closest to the skin is still very starchy and immature.
After they're picked, the mangos are sent to what I like to think of as the Fruit Fly Prevention Spa. The mangos are submerged in a giant pool of 115-degree water for at least an hour to kill any fruit fly eggs or larvae.
So far so good, but a number of things can go wrong in the hot water. If a mango isn’t mature enough, the high temperature confuses its inner systems. Its metabolism speeds up, but the fruit can't take in oxygen (being underwater and all), so it starts to ferment, which generates carbon dioxide and alcohol. With no escape, the carbon dioxide builds up, eventually creating holes like those you see in the pictured mango. The hot water inhibits the enzymes that prompt the starch to sugar reaction, so the mango never reaches fully ripened glory. And, despite appearances, the white area has nothing to do with the mango pit.
The rest of the fruit, however, can still be perfectly fine. Since it was harvested too early, it might not be the most flavorful mango you’ve ever met, but it’s still certainly edible. I ate and enjoyed the other side of this mango, but it was just OK. I didn’t taste any alcohol resulting from the fermentation back in the hot water bath, likely because it had escaped as vapor.
*For a cool visual of that internal ripening over time, check out pages 3 - 5 of this presentation from the University of California - Davis.
Jeffrey Brecht. Post-harvest plant physiologist. Professor of horticultural science. University of Florida.
Postharvest Physiological Disorders in Fruits and Vegetables. Sergio Tonetto de Freitas, Sunil Pareek. CRC Press, Jan 15, 2019.
Postharvest handling of mango. University of California - Davis. Postharvest Technology. 2014.
Mango Handling and Ripening Protocol. The National Mango Board.
Mango: Postharvest best management practices manual. Editor: Jeffrey K. Brecht. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. National Mango Board.
Influence of Thermal Postharvest stress on mango polyphenolics during ripening. Angela Jean Lounds-Singleton. Masters Thesis. University of Florida 2003.
Uh oh. We're really in hot water this time...